Villains: without them, there just wouldn’t be a motive to drive our heroes. And yet, even with them being around, all we want to do is crush them and banish them to eternal darkness. That is until we don’t — and we genuinely grow attached to their flaws. Okay, so it’s rare that we actually bond with the ones who’re out to bring us down, but between the lashings of hostility and bloodthirst often lies a likeable character. And sometimes, funnily enough, it can make us not want to pull the trigger during the final showdown.
While bad guys are drawn up to be rubbed out, it doesn’t stop us from wanting to explore their backstories a little more from time to time. Whether it’s down to their charming quirks or humourous approach to world domination — chances are, you too have felt a growing attachment to the opposition. Either way, we can’t deny that these five villains aren’t at least a little likeable in the video game world. Right?
5. Vergil (Devil May Cry)
While the second son of Sparda isn’t technically a villain as such, his approach to the demon heritage does include some questionable decisions that affect Dante along the way. As the brother to our beloved demon hunter, we’ve always had the pleasure of witnessing the sibling rivalry that unfolds between the two. Whether it be in combat or just straight-up bickering, both sons of Sparda have tried to outdo one another time and time again. And where Vergil lacks in wit and power compared to Dante, he most definitely makes up for it with courage and devotion to his family legacy.
As with any broken bond between relatives, opening up a fight is only an invitation to heartbreak and suffering. And that’s exactly the case between Dante and Vergil. While both are left to suffer from grief over the loss of their parents, each sibling is ultimately led astray on alternative paths — one of which causes the two to clash at a later crossroads. Having said that, we see Vergil for his qualities as well as his flaws, which leaves us contemplating his demise before breaking into any battle.
4. Arthas (Warcraft)
Seeing as we watched Arthas spiral from a beloved hero to a sadistic king over the course of several Warcraft chapters, we have to admit that watching the transition was definitely a little harder to swallow than normal. The fact that this great Paladin of Lordaeron sacrificed his idolized legacy and humanity for the sake of his dear townsfolk speaks volumes for Arthas as a character. Unfortunately, witnessing the sudden transformation into the sinister Lich King made long-term Warcraft fans miss the loveable Arthas more than ever.
Any new World of Warcraft player that has yet to sink into the earlier instalments probably won’t be phased by the overpowering Lich King that once stood at the apex of Icecrown Citadel. But, those who’ve grown up with Arthas before the warp into madness will know the true heartbreak behind the character. And for that reason alone, we’re more than happy to put him on this list of villains that will forever be loved by millions.
3. GLaDOS (Portal)
Without a standout character to keep the player hooked from beginning to end, you might as well not bother trying to develop a video game, to begin with, right? Well, just as well both Portal and Portal 2 found their niche through humour and oddly comforting one-liners via their one-eyed robot, GLaDOS. Thanks to that witty little bot that not only guided us through the Aperture Facility — but also terrorized us along the way, both Portal chapters were made incredibly spirited and worthy of multiple playthroughs. And we can’t fault a game that makes our money worthwhile, can we?
While Portal is a puzzle game at heart with plenty of wriggle room for additional genres — it’s the humour that drives the majority of the experience. Without GLaDOS and the endless tongue in cheek sarcasm and backhanded comments, we’d never have felt the urge to press on further than the first room. Luckily for us, having the cheeky android stalk our steps and narrate our progress made the overall experience a memorable one, for sure. If only she wasn’t so darn twisted, eh? I’m sure she would’ve made a great little companion post-exit.
2. Vaas (Far Cry 3)
It was clear from the get-go that the pirate kingpin Vaas was going to be a tough obstacle to bypass on our journey to freedom. From the moment we crash land on forbidden territory and face capture by the psychotic villain himself, we’re immediately drawn to the nearest exit to avoid any further encounters with him. And yet, despite the unpredictable nature and senseless killing, Vaas’s inner core sheds a much more intriguing skin than he lets on. Sure, he rambles on about insanity for the most part — but buried beneath the mindless monologues lies a genuinely compelling character that we can’t stop thinking about.
There’s no denying the fact that Vaas is one of the greatest video game villains in the history of bosses. And we can see why the pirate has earned that status over the years, too. It’s because no other villain has managed to crawl into our brains and toy with our emotions as much as the Far Cry kingpin. Whether it’s through the radio or in our very dreams — Vaas plays on our minds for the whole of the game, and we don’t know whether to pursue him to the grave or just flounder into insanity completely. Either way, at least we understand the definition of the latter now, right? We only had to hear it about sixteen times, after all.
1. Handsome Jack (Borderlands)
Let’s not pretend that Handsome Jack isn’t great, okay? Sure, he’s menacingly sinister and an unpredictable control freak at best — but he’s charming in his own unique ways. As one of the main villains through Borderlands 2, The Pre-Sequel and Tales from the Borderlands, we’ve been able to witness the drastic measures that Jack himself has taken to keep Pandora under his belt. Only, even with the mindless slaughtering and careless approach to preserving humanity, Handsome Jack is still a rather likeable character.
Whether you’ve located several voice logs and followed the mind-bending backstory in Borderlands 2, or just simply stepped out of your way to learn more about the sociopath from Tales — there’s no denying that, when Jack speaks — everyone tunes in to his frequency. The endless one-liners that always manage to land, the sassy pitch in his voice, and, of course, the pointless torment that he slumps on anyone that dares cross his path. It’s all there, and we love him for it. So thanks for that, Gearbox.